Break The Stigma: Body Positivity

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Body image is how you see yourself in the mirror. Body image is how you picture yourself in your mind. That is how NEDA defines body image. There’s something we should all take from this definition. It’s dependent upon YOU, … Continue reading 

Senior Reflections

“Birds born in a cage think flying is an illness.” —Alejandro Jodorowsky

My sophomore year my roommate and I went on a whitewater rafting trip with other Georgetown students. Along the way, at the strongest rapid, our raft capsized and we all went tumbling out. The current dragged me along and I felt myself losing control, my legs scraped along the bottom, my body made impact with rocks, the guide frantically paddled toward all of us, scrambling in the water, to pull us to safety and return us to our raft. In those moments there is a feeling of sheer panic, all of your comfort and tranquility has disappeared and is replaced by an urgency to get out of the current, get back to land, get back to safety. But what I’ve learned from the Women’s Center, and Georgetown in general, is that often there is much to be learned in the panic (metaphorically speaking). You see, this feeling is the same that emerged in me when my comfortable, safe and tranquil white feminist lens was taken down, when my cisgender- straight perspective was etched away, when my race was illuminated in a world that had previously told me I need not look for it. This core part of me felt itself crashing against rocks, being dragged under by a strong current, feeling the panic of not knowing the answers.

I came to the Women’s Center believing I was informed, better educated than most on the topics of female empowerment and ready to delve ahead around feminism and women’s rights. I had never imagined that I was the Titanic, knowing only the tip of the iceberg, ill equipped to handle all that lay below. I quickly learned that I was a white, straight, cisgender female who knew virtually nothing about intersectional feminism and allyship. I did not even know the word ‘intersectional feminism’ until I learned it here. When I began volunteering at the Women’s Center I was immersed into a new world- roundtable discussions on black feminism, men in feminism, transgender feminism, women’s representations in politics, comics, media, immigration, undocumented Hoyas, women in climate, class disparities, the list was endless. Leadership trainings that showed me I had a voice, one that I could use. My aunt’s words would resonate in my head in these spaces, “You know Mary it’s okay to have an opinion.” I did not believe her before, my opinions had brought anger, had brought discomfort, shame, my cheeks would turn red telling someone I disagreed. But here, here was a space where I could disagree, where I could put my opinion forward after feeling for years that I should remain relatively silent, and that confidence grew until I could put it forward outside of the space. Conversations with the Women’s Center director Laura Kovach constantly challenged me, put forward new ways of looking at words like ‘survivor,’ and helped me to deconstruct basic accepted tenets about women (and men) in society, she helped me make sense of it all. Every day a new piece of me was forming, a new knowledge emerging, a new confidence building. And I must admit it was not the Women’s Center alone that was doing this work; it was the close partnerships the Women’s Center had with the LGBTQ Center and its director Shiva- imparting me with insights five times her size, with the Center for Multicultural Equity and Access, with the students who flowed in and out of the centers, each with a different perspective, experience, history.

In those moments of shedding, of letting the current wash me, of letting the rocks cut me and scrape away the old skin, I was so uncomfortable. The process was, at times, painful. Painful when you realize that friendships with certain people can no longer be maintained as they cling to ignorance or bigotry despite your questioning, painful when you discover that your parents- those beacons of power throughout your childhood- perhaps do not have all the knowledge you once thought they possessed, that at times they can and do do wrong, uncomfortable when you realize that in certain situations where you have not been oppressed it is your place to listen and not speak, painful when your university does not always make the choices you believe it should. The pain resonates, and makes you melancholy. It is so much easier to return to your safe haven. But I knew it was wrong to stay there, to play the card of ignorance and therefore a believed innocence. There was something better waiting on the other side. Who knew that when I emerged from that river, having been thrashed about to and fro I would emerge stronger, more knowledgeable, more critical and questioning of the information put before me and most importantly, more inclusive of experiences different, but no less valid, than my own.

As Ta-nehisi Coates wrote in his book “Between the World and Me,” (a book that I must point out would never have even been on my radar were it not for the friendships formed at the Women’s Center), “It began to strike me that the point of my education was a kind of discomfort, was the process that would not award me my own especial Dream but would break all the dreams, all the comforting myths…” My myths were broken, my worldview shifted, but my resolve strengthened. I now march forward from the bank of that river unafraid to continue changing, unafraid of jumping into another, knowing that I can and I will rescue myself. My bruises will heal, new skin will form, and me? Well I’ll be better because of it.

“Is Feminism Inclusive?” Exploring trans identities within the Feminist Community

Although questioned in the 1970s and 1980s, transgender inclusion in Feminism and in “women-only” spaces came to the forefront in 1991 following the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival, also known as Michfest. Nancy Jean Burkholder’s expulsion from Michfest, upon suspicion of being transgender, sparked protests such as Camp Trans, which takes place near Michfest, and pushes for trans inclusion within Queer and Feminist spaces. Despite the extensive backlash against this incident of exclusion, Michfest continued to maintain its official “womyn-born-womyn” policy up until it’s close in 2015 and the issue of trans-inclusion in feminist spaces continues to be debated almost 25 years later.

 

Last month, as part of Women’s History Month, the Women’s Center held a Feminist Roundtable, entitled “Is Feminism Inclusive?” It focused on trans identities and how Feminism can be more inclusive of varying gender identities. During the event, we discussed the reasons some may be hesitant to include trans people in Feminist spaces and whether or not these reasons are valid. We then discussed the commonalities between cisgender and transgender Feminist causes, recognized the importance of everyone’s unique experiences, and acknowledging that we are all fighting for similar visions of equality.

 

Some argue that trans women benefit from male privilege because they are socialized as boys, or that trans men are “traitors” attempting to gain this male privilege. Emi Koyama, in Transfeminist Manifesto, addresses this belief by arguing that we must recognize the possibility of male privilege while simultaneously understanding the disadvantages that can come with a trans identity. By taking such a simplistic approach to male privilege, we overlook the existence of cisgender privilege and the way in which being assigned male at birth may be more of a burden than a privilege to a trans woman. Koyama presents the faults of this understanding by using the example of two gay cis men: if being assigned male at birth is intrinsically linked to male privilege, then this couple is more privileged than any cis heterosexual couple, as both partners benefit from male privilege.  Although two gay cis men may make a larger combined income because of the pay gap (more on that here), they may also be subjected to discrimination and homophobia, demonstrating how nuanced oppression and discrimination can be because of the intersections of identity.

 

After countering these ideas regarding trans people and privilege, we focused on the commonalities between transgender issues and Feminist issues. These commonalities include emphasis on bodily autonomy as well as opposition to patriarchal systems, gender-based violence, the strict gender binary, and societal beauty standards. As Koyama explains, a main focus of U.S. transgender politics is advocating against rigid gender roles. Trans people are often forced, through harassment and discrimination, into the gender dichotomy of man versus woman, even more harshly than cis people. Moreover, when considering gender-based violence and sexual assault, “the dynamics of the violence against trans women is not unlike that involving non-trans women, except that [trans women] are often more vulnerable” (7). Trans women are at a higher risk of assault, murder, and suicide because of the intersecting roles of misogyny and transphobia, and are more vulnerable to emotional or verbal abuse from their partners because of higher rates of negative body image and low self-esteem. Finally, just as sexual assault and gender-based violence are at the forefront of predominantly-cisgender Feminist movements, gender-based violence is one of the biggest issues for trans Feminists, demonstrating the need for response programs and Feminist movements to be trans-inclusive, even trans-centered.

 

When recognizing the fragility of the arguments against being trans-inclusive as well as the shared issues between trans and cis people, the answer to the trans-inclusion debate seems clear. As Koyama argues in her manifesto, “no temporary fragmentation or polarization is too severe to nullify the ultimate virtues of inclusive coalition politics,” demonstrating that diversity is a strength of feminism rather than a weakness or fragmentation (1). It is, therefore, essential both for the survival and dignity of trans people, as well as for the success and growth of the Feminist movement, that trans people are welcomed into Feminist spaces.

 

By Sierra Campbell (COL ’18), Majoring in Women’s and Gender Studies and Psychology

U.S. Naval Academy Foreign Affairs Conference

Gender dichotomies in the U.S. Naval Academy Foreign Affairs Conference

 

I attended the Naval Academy Foreign Affairs Conference the second week of April. It took place in the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis and the topic of the year was the perfect combination between the two matters that I am the most passionate about: women and security. From the moment I read the title the very first time I felt that something didn’t fit well; it was the word “women”. Why talk about women and security as if women constituted this very particular and closed group, leaving out other parts of the ‘gender spectrum’? However, I was glad to know that the configuration of the conference included specialized roundtables where we would have the chance to raise our voices and engage in meaningful discussion with others.

 

From the very first speech, it was very clear to me that debate in the conference was going to focus on the unique characteristics women as a group could bring to conflict prevention and conflict resolution. One of the speeches that stood out the most was the one of Rick Goings, the Chairman & CEO of Tupperware Brands Corporation. I was very surprised when he called himself a feminist and highlighted the number of ways in which his company has empowered women all over the world; even his propaganda was focused on them. I wonder to what extent his company’s success is related to the fact that it is focused on women as the base of the household, as the ones that cook and use Tupperware products, continuing the stereotypical role of women in society. Other speakers talked about the role that women have in the economy and the way in which women have contributed to solve conflicts around the world. Everyone in the conference was in favor of women being more included in the world of international security, but there was a factor that no one talked about: diversity.

 

Talking about gender as if it was a male-female dichotomy can be very harmful by in perpetuating this separation. It is important to understand that gender is never black and white, and, that if we want more people to take part in our national and international security policies, we should start taking into account a variety of identities without essentializing them. Women themselves are a very diverse group, and while gender is a very important part of people’s identity, it does not determine who they are, nor does it determine their mental or physical capacities in a variety of fields, including security.  I believe that most people would agree that empowering women does not mean motivating them to embody traditionally male characteristics of power and domination, but we should challenge the fact that these characteristics are attributed to men. A woman can be powerful without losing her feminine identity. Different things empower different women.

 

By Cristina Quijano C. (’17), Exchange Student from Universidad San Francisco de Quito. Major: International Relations and Politics, Minor: Philosophy

Event Recap: Women Veterans in Transition: Questions of Identity

A Change from “One of the Bros” to Students, Mothers, Entrepreneurs, and Professionals 

On Tuesday March 14, the Women’s Center hosted a panel “Women’s Veterans in Transition and Questions of Identity” in partnership with the Veteran’s Office. The room inside was, surprisingly fancy with chic dark wood walls and nice paintings, so try attending events there!

 

I know this is old fashioned, but seeing women in military is very uncommon in my life. (I am totally not against it.) My previous image of women veterans is of the hardship that women could experience in a masculine, male-dominated, and dangerous workplace. I also have a big question mark for the statement ‘women in combat’. To me it’s a mystery, something that I cannot imagine. Like one of the panelists, Miriam, described it. I could not imagine women in fighting situations.

 

The dialogue centered on a variety of questions highlighting different aspects of the panelist’s lives both inside and outside of the military. Questions included but were not limited to: How was the relationship? What was the struggle in transition? What did you notice about life in service? Why do you think the divorce rate is so high among women veterans? This intense dialogue was followed by a Q&A and a reception.

 

As I imagined, the Veterans on the panel have experienced some difficulties in shaping their identities to fit that of the military. They talked about women who have to choose either to be apart from the unit or to be “one of the bros,” to get along with the other male members. In the culture of the military, saving the man next to you, being apart is not an option. So women have to try not to appear too feminine by engaging in a more masculine conversation style. They have to avoid saying things like, “oh that is super inappropriate, I don’t feel comfortable hearing that”. They did not want to be “that girl”.

 

Therefore, coming to Georgetown, becoming students was a big social change. There were things that they had to relearn, especially in an undergraduate, campus environment. They did not want to exclude themselves from other young freshmen is challenging because they are so much older, they could be married, living off-campus, experiencing different issues… They are just very different and, at times, difficult to relate to.

 

In this process, women veterans look back and sometimes realize that the situations in the military that they confronted were not supposed to be like they were. Even in academics, especially in Georgetown where a lot of classes are about U.S. politics, security policy, foreign relation, and topics related to mobilizing the military, there is a huge gap between what the young students think about and what veterans think about with real-life, first hand experiences.

 

Throughout these changes women veterans do not identify as veterans to the extent that male veterans do. One of them said that the other parts of her identity, such as that of a mother, take up so much more space than the veteran side of her daily life. The identity of “women” veterans fades away. Interestingly enough, the panelist brought up the idea that people can recognize male veterans but not female veterans. One of the panelists mentioned that when she sees injured women she cannot immediately associate that woman as a veteran who was injured even though she has first hand experience and has seen many injured women veterans. The thought, ‘maybe she had car accident’ crosses her mind, whereas she can associate injured men with a veteran status.

 

The last thing that I vividly remember is the final comment from one of the panelists. She emphasized that we should not see and treat women veterans as those who have the identity of sexual assault. Several of the panelists mentioned that people ask them about sexual assault once they are in ‘close’ relationships. The predominantly male environment and the number of reports about the issue make us associate women in military with victims of sexual assault, whether she has actually experienced it or not. Sexual assault is something that can happen in the military but should not solely be associated to women in service.

 

Women veterans have experienced vast identity transformations in adapting to life outside of the military. Sometimes they are students, mothers, researchers, entrepreneurs, and professionals, and sometimes their “veteran” identity fades away.

 

Women with military experience are, strong, intellectual, brave, and they can be much more: that is their identity.

 

 

Rihoko Nikaya Exchange’17

Event Recap: Chiefs of Staff for the First Ladies

Picture a job with no description, a politician who was never explicitly elected, a position that offers a world of opportunity and an international platform that can be used according to personal preference.

 

The position you are picturing matches the ambiguous, ever-evolving occupation of the First Lady of the United States.

 

Yesterday a panel hosted by the Georgetown Institute of Politics and Public Service, co-sponsored by the Georgetown University Women Center, Georgetown University Women in Leadership, Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security, Georgetown Women Alliance and Georgetown University Women in Leadership featured three chiefs of staff of former (and current) First Ladies of the U.S.

 

Claire Shipman of ABC News moderated a panel consisting of Anita McBride, former Chief of Staff to First Lady Laura Bush and Executive in Residence, School of Public Affairs, American University; Tina Tchen, Chief of Staff to First Lady Michelle Obama; and Melanne Verveer, former Chief of Staff to First Lady Hillary Clinton and Executive Director, Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security for a conversation on the Office of the First Lady. Each woman attested to variations in personal relationships with their “boss,” yet a few common threads ran throughout the conversation and revealed firsthand insight into this job with no description: the politician who was never elected.

 

In an hour of conversation and discussion, the three panelists offered the audience the chance to be a fly on the wall in the mysterious East Wing.

 

In a position so fluid and flexible, the obvious springboard for discussion as Shipmann asked was simple: What were your expectations for serving the First Lady and how did those expectations hold or evolve over time?

 

Ms. McBride answered first, stressing the principle that the East Wing ultimately had to mesh with the West Wing. In terms of policy, she remarked, the idea that they were not “running a shadow government” was pervasive, and sometimes difficult, to balance. Tchen piggybacked on that idea, stressing that despite the prestige of the position, actual resources and budget are quite limited. The defining aspect of the East Wing mindset is to take the office as it is, with all its limitations, and use the “shiny bright light it offers” the best they can. That shiny bright light, Tchen points out, comes with enormous expectations and a high level of scrutiny even though an understanding of the inner workings of the office itself is much less known.

 

Despite somewhat limited resources and the high level of criticism the first lady often receives, each panelist stressed the beauty of flexibility in the East Wing. The First Lady ultimately sets her own agenda and in doing so is able to pursue issues and policy measures that are authentic to her interests, passions, and intellect; Michelle Obama has worked tirelessly to support education of women and girls and combatting obesity. Barbara Bush travelled to Afghanistan. Hillary Clinton was integral in her husband’s healthcare reform policies. Each First Lady pursues such important issues though each one pursues different ones.

 

With the role of First Lady, the role of her Chief of Staff is one that has to embrace the unpredictable nature of the position and be able to, as McBride so aptly put, “pivot.” The First Lady has a huge opportunity to advocate for critical issues, issues that extend far beyond. As Verveer so eloquently described it – “China patterns and color schemes for events.”

 

With the 2016 election looming, one student posed the question to the panelists about the potential for a “First Man” in the next administration, and how would the role change as a result? Verveer chimed in once again maintain that the East Wing, regardless of the gender of the person who occupies it, offers a platform for the First Spouse to decide their own issues to advocate for and figure out where she (or he) can best be deployed.

 

The event was a wonderful testament not only to the leadership and relevance of First Ladies, but to the women behind the scenes, who edit speeches, book flights, set agendas, and work so closely with those women to define the role of the East Wing for themselves. The panel allowed unique access into that office and in doing so revealed that there is nothing “soft” about it—the office, the woman who occupies it, the issues she campaigns for, and the support team she has behind her.

 

Written by Grace Wydeven (COL ’18), English Major

Q&A with Hoya Women: Lihong Liang

SU Photo By Steve Sartori

Lihong Liang,Ph.D. is a visiting associate professor of accounting for the McDonough School of Business. She currently teaches Accounting 101 and conducts research concerning financial empirical research, market anomalies, analyst forecasts, and corporate governance. Lihong Liang is from China and graduated from Beijing Polytechnic University. Liang also received a M.S. and Ph.D. in Accounting from the Pennsylvania State University.

 

1.How did you get to the position you’re in today? Was this what you thought you’d be doing?

I was a good student and interested in traveling abroad and pursuing advanced degrees. I heard a lot of good things about the higher education in the US so I applied and got a full scholarship. Most people with Ph.D. degrees in accounting work as professors in accounting. It is not exactly what I had planned but I am not surprised because my family put a lot of emphasis on education and all of my family members have good education.

 

2. Could you describe the/a project or research you’ve been working on?

In a paper recently published in Contemporary Accounting Research, I found that shareholder participation improves financial reporting quality. One of the Co-authors is Professor William Barber at Georgetown University. This paper, titled “External Corporate Governance and Misreporting,” analyzed external governance provisions, specifically those provisions that limit direct shareholder participation in the governance process. We found that fewer restrictions on shareholder participation are associated with a relatively low incidence of accounting restatements.

We investigated associations between misreporting and external governance characteristics, which dictate the ability of shareholders to participate directly in the corporate governance process. Accounting irregularities are significant events, as sample firms experience (on average) a 6.7 percent loss of shareholder value around the time of the subsequent restatement disclosure.

We defined external governance as those statutory and corporate charter provisions that discourage shareholders from participating in the decision-making and governance processes. In the research, firms whose provisions restricted shareholder intervention were presumed to have weak external governance, and firms with relatively few such provisions were presumed to have strong external governance.

We discovered that misreporting is more likely for firms characterized by weak external governance than firms where external governance is strong. What’s more, our results support the notion that shareholder participation discourages accounting decisions or practices that could result in misreporting.

 

3. What challenges or barriers have you ever faced as a woman in your career?

Being an Asian woman, I am in general quiet and not outspoken.

 

4. What advice would you have for women who want to advance in your career and in your field? (also in business careers in general, not only accounting)

In business schools or the business world, I think men still have more advantages than women. So women not only need to work harder but also need to have a strong voice to be successful.

 

5. How has your background shaped how you approach your current position? How has it shaped your experiences at Georgetown?

As I mentioned earlier, education plays an important role in my family starting from my grandma. My mom also worked in education so I definitely understand and appreciate the importance of it. I really enjoy teaching and care about my students. How my students are doing and how my teaching goes is a constant topic in my daily conversation. I think we have many great students at Georgetown who also value education and work very hard. I am glad to see it.

 

6. Do you have any advice for students?

Work hard and have fun.

 

Article by: Vanessa Philipps (MSB ’19)

 

If you’re interested in being interviewed, or know of any Hoya Women (i.e. professors, faculty, staff etc.) that you would like to interview, send us an email at: tgr9@georgetown.edu

Start $mart: Women CAN do Salary Negotiations

I attended Start $mart, a workshop on salary negotiation for women and student entering job market, which took place at Mcshain Large Lounge (McCarthy) on March 1st from 6pm – 8pm. This was hosted by Carolyn and Linda French from the American Association for University Women (AAUW). Both have experienced several career changes and consequent salary negotiations whilst searching for jobs.

As an international student, I had no idea what would happen in this workshop. To be honest, I did not know that salary negotiations were a part of the job changing process. In Japan, where I am from, one job tends to last a lifetime, so I was very excited to learn about the salary situations in U.S. and the tips to approach them.

The event was separated into four parts in a thin workbook. Firstly, we learned basic issues regarding the gender gap in salary, from the fact that “In 2014 women working full time in the United States typically were paid just 79 percent of what men were paid,”  to more social aspects, including the prevailing patriarchy and consequent social cost this create for women.

They then taught us how to calculate the estimate cost for living, the average salary for a specific job, which could be used to estimate your desired salary. Salary.com is one example of a means by which we can get this estimate. 

In addition, we were taught tips on negotiating, such as how to answer if an employer’s offer is too low or too high, which we could use in the negotiation process with other participants.

When practicing the negotiation process, I was the employee and my partner was the employer. I was advised to reach for the highest salary of the range, but I chose to mention a value in the middle during the practice. I didn’t think I was good enough to aim for high salary, but I realize now that it would not hurt me to try. It was interesting to realize that I internalize the idea that I am not enough.

We talked a lot about the anxiety of asking for higher salary, and many of my classmates shared their worries of being perceived as selfish, aggressive, and greedy. We learned that it is totally normal for women, particularly those who just graduated from college, to negotiate salaries. Plus, if you have already received an offer, the company wants you, so they are more likely to be willing to negotiate.

Although it can come with anxiety and awkwardness, the challenge will allow for benefits in the later years.

Ultimately, remember to be prepared. Use the researching tools available, have them in front of you when negotiating because it will help you to remain calm and confident. Do not accept salaries that you do not want.

Also, SMILE. It will help a lot.

 

Written by Rihoko Nikaya Exchange Student ’17 Social Science

Addressing the Invisibility of the Asian American Women’s Struggle

Where do Asian (Americans) fit in? Do they “count” as people of color?

“In my sophomore year in college, after I learned of Japanese-American activist Yuri Kochiyama‘s role in the civil rights movement and asked a sociology professor why none of our classroom discussions included any mention of her role, she told me that ‘bringing an Asian into the discussion on civil rights would just confuse people,’ ” she wrote. “When I pointed out to another sociology professor that the statistics we were studying that day, on the parenting styles of black and Hispanic parents versus white parents, did not take into account the unique perspective of Asians, she told me bluntly that ‘the Asian perspective can be found in the stats on white people.’ “

Lindsey Yoo, following the #solidarityisforwhitewomen thread, has begun to question where she stands in Women’s Rights as an Asian-American woman. Coming from the perspective of an Asian woman, I can’t help but snap to every instance of invisibility that resonates with me. From being uncomfortable in spaces we feel are not ours to being unable to identify women that look like us in the media or in the classroom.

But why? The Asian-American experience has spanned several generations. We may have migrated literal centuries ago (200+ to be exact), contributed soldiers to the war effort or helped build the nation’s railroad system and bolster the current economy, but clearly we are still considered outsiders. As a result of our designated role as “model minorities,” the generations of oppression have been made invisible in the face of successes in social justice. If anything, the media has perpetuated the orientalization and exoticization of Asian American women with characters that lack substance, development or real ‘character’.

 

“It’s difficult, for instance, to feel like an ally when so many prominent feminists around me choose to praise and write about Orange Is the New Black for its portrayals of gender and race, but make almost no mention of the lazy, racist depiction of the lone Asian female character.”

What makes the process of promoting equity even more difficult has been the perpetuated notions of subservience in Asian and Asian-American settings. The intersectionality of race and gender works against us both in our own respective cultures and outside of it as the patriarchy at home and the discrimination in the public sphere continues.

As of late, much more attention has been placed on advocating for the voices of Asian (American) women and working “outside the binary,” for example the hashtag campaign #NotYourAsianSidekick.

In an effort to branch outside the binary, address the challenges faced by our international women, in representation of, and in solidarity with, women that identify as international women of color, we, at the Women’s Center are beginning a blog series to present the stories of the international women on this campus. 

 

In Solidarity,

Theresa Marie Romualdez

Feminism to the Religious Feminist: Does it exist?

“We tried to do things that were unignorable, like wearing pants to church…” Such an act would seem arbitrary and meaningless to most of us. And yet, in a recent TED talk, Chelsea Shields expresses the tension between feminism and religion – a very real struggle for many. Religious women have been called “second-class feminists” both by the church for being feminist or by feminists for attending church. These conflicts are especially salient to us, as part of a Jesuit university, but are prevalent in all religious communities.

Shields begins her talk with an important point – the perceived dichotomy between a secular context and a religious context. It can’t be denied that many social practices, institutions and laws worldwide are, or were, dictated by religion. This perceived dichotomy, she notes, “breeds” religious extremism and only works against any form of progress women in the church might see. “It [religion] creates the seeds of normality,” she says. While this might not be true for many of us that are not religious, it is particularly impactful in others. As a young woman that comes from a religious family, I can attest to that as well as to the stereotypes associated with this – which are, admittedly, not entirely false.”

This is not something exclusive to the United States or to Christianity, either. A common misconception is that feminism is a Western construct and that certain religions, like Islam, are inherently sexist and patriarchal. Muslim women, for example, are frequently assumed to be constricted and oppressed because of the practices of their religion. In actuality, many proudly wear the hijab and exhibit their identity as Muslim women. Recently, ‘The Women’s Mosque Movement’ has begun to work against this by allowing intellectual ownership of Islamic teaching, which has included women translating and interpreting the Qur’an.

Of course, the issue of the patriarchy and a blind acceptance of social structures that are followed in most religions means conflict is going to exist between the feminist and religious community. Yet, it still seems problematic that the distinction must be made between the ‘Muslim feminist’ and the ‘Christian feminist’ and the ‘feminist’.

What can be done about this now? Well, we should recognize that even if there is a difference between religious feminism and secular feminism – we are all feminists and it is helping no one to continue this dichotomy. Regardless of religious background, we are fighting for the same reasons and towards the same goals. Truly, there is no real way to address such tensions without knowing the plight of both sides. So long as we continue to assume that one religion or belief is ‘better’ than another, whether that be in terms of establishing equality and equity or encouraging ‘sound’ values, we will get nowhere.

As said in a recent Huffington Post article: “We recognize that many people think it is only a feminist act to leave patriarchal traditions. We contend that it can also be a feminist act to stay, and we look forward to the day when doing so puts neither our faith nor our feminism in question.”

Chelsea Shields TED talk: https://www.ted.com/talks/chelsea_shields_how_i_m_working_for_change_inside_my_church?language=en

 

Written By: Theresa Marie Romualdez (Col 19’)